Life in the Fast Lane

Life in the Fast Lane

From the time he was a kid, Andrei Daescu has always lived a very active lifestyle and he has no intention of slowing down.

Deborah Lew
|
May 23, 2023
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An object in motion stays in motion. 

When Newton came up with his first law of motion, he may very well have been observing a day in the life of professional pickleball player, Andrei Daescu.

At the age of 34, Daescu has hit his stride as one of the most dynamic and recognizable players on the APP Tour, after only playing pickleball for six years. 

Born in Bucharest, Romania, Daescu began playing tennis at the age of six. His father played recreational tennis, and one day, at the park with his dad, little Andrei took a lesson, and that’s all it took to get him hooked. Idolizing Andre Agassi because of his flamboyance, Daescu played for fun for a few years but around the time he was 10 he started getting pretty serious, and by the age of 12, was traveling throughout Europe playing tennis tournaments. A tennis scholarship to the University of Oklahoma brought Daescu to the United States when he was 18, and four years later he graduated with a degree in human resource management. He played professional tennis for about five years after graduating, but shoulder surgery closed the professional tennis chapter for Daescu.

In 2017 he was the head pro at BallenIsles Country Club in Florida, when he was introduced to the game of pickleball by chance. An exhibition was played at his club, and he had the opportunity to hit with some of the pros. A few weeks after that, he played his first local pickleball tournament, and won. The rest, as they say, is history. 

“I stopped playing pro tennis in 2015, so I really enjoyed pickleball and I thought, ‘hey, if I can compete again and also have fun while competing, then that’s a great combo for me’ and it so happened that pickleball provided that and I’m very thankful for it,” Daescu says.

Although they are both racquet sports, Daescu feels that while the singles game and the baseline are similar to tennis, the doubles game is completely different because it’s mostly played at the net. 

“Any kind of racquet sports player has an edge over somebody who doesn’t play racquet sports, when they start pickleball, but it is a combination between tennis on the baseline and ping pong at the kitchen line, so there are still a lot of nuances and small details that you have to work on and perfect in order to be good at it. I think all tennis players, including myself, make the jump and they think it’s an easy transition and obviously it’s not,” explains Daescu, who is coached by one of his best friends. “It’s definitely not as easy as it looks.”

After playing 24 pickleball tournaments in 2022, Daescu has 28 on the calendar for 2023. But being a professional pickleball player is only part of who he is. 

With two daughters, Olivia, age four, and Sienna, two-and-a-half, life is a busy adventure for Daescu and his wife, Loradana, who has been playing recreational pickleball for the past year. The family does spend time together on the pickleball courts, and although the little ones don’t yet have the attention span for the game, mom and dad find that it’s good for them to be around the sport. 

Living in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, the family enjoys a lot of time outdoors, at the pool and by the water. Olivia can regularly be found kicking a soccer ball around with her dad and Sienna loves to play with balloons. 

“They’re very active kids. That’s good for me because I get to do fun, active activities that they like. I have a tough time sitting down and not doing much,” admits Daescu, who is happy that his kids have plenty of energy and want to run around rather than sit on the couch and watch movies.

Aside from family time, Daescu enjoys the ocean, diving and snorkeling off the Florida coast. An ideal vacation for him would involve a hammock on the beach somewhere, relaxing with a cigar in one hand and a beer in the other. 

An avid car racing fan, Daescu has watched Formula 1 since he was four years old. His favorite driver is Lewis Hamilton, he has a racing simulator in his home for his own entertainment, and he has tried his hand at Go Karting. But ‘Andrei the Giant,’ as he is sometimes affectionately known, knows that at 6 feet 4 inches tall, his Go Karting career would be short-lived. In between his own tournaments, Daescu was able to catch the Miami Grand Prix at the beginning of May, where he was able to watch Hamilton place sixth. It may or may not be a coincidence that Daescu’s pet peeve is people driving slowly in the fast lane.

It’s no surprise that Daescu isn’t a big fan of television-watching, and movies are definitely too long for him, but he does find himself watching documentaries - sports are his favorite - while he’s traveling. He’ll watch any of ESPN’s “30 for 30” series and, being a big fan of Michael Jordan, loved “The Last Dance.” In addition, Daescu passes travel time by listening to audio books, one of his favorites being “Maverick: More Than A Game” by Phil Jackson. 

He’s not a superstitious person, but Daescu, like most professional athletes, does have a pre-tournament routine to take care of his body. A few days before a tournament starts, he’ll begin loading up on carbohydrates, and drinking nutrient and electrolyte-dense beverages. The night before a tournament, he’ll make sure he has some good protein. Before matches, he finds a quiet place to get himself in the right mindset, which includes listening to music - mostly techno and EDM - and about 15 minutes of stretching. After tournaments, however, is when the fun really begins.

“I have a routine where I have a really fatty and massive meal just because I can’t eat that much during the tournaments. I go and have a really big massive meal whether I barbecue myself or get some Five Guys, or something like that where it looks like I haven’t eaten in two months.”

His favorite post-tournament feast?

“Those Brazilian steakhouses are great. It’s all you can eat, good quality, a lot of good food that I like, steak and stuff like that. Those Brazilian steakhouses are definitely at the top of the list,” insists Daescu, who found one to indulge in after winning two gold medals at the APP Sunmed Sacramento Open back in April.

While he’s a self-proclaimed low-stress person in general, when he does get stressed out he tries to work through it in his mind by shifting his thoughts towards the positive and things that make him happy. He tries to remind himself that it’s not sunny forever, it’s not raining forever, and while losses are sometimes tough, he goes over what he could have done better, takes it ‘on the chin' and does his best to move on. 

One important lesson that pickleball, and sports in general, have taught him about life, is that it’s important to have a short-term memory. In sports, there are obviously long-term goals and looking to the future, but with all the highs and lows, Daescu believes that taking it one day at a time and keeping things in perspective are key.

“Don’t get too high when things are going well, don’t get too low when things are not going well,” advises Daescu. “I think that’s one of the most important things it taught me, is just to have a short-term memory and take one day at a time and do the best I can and just live with the fact that some days will be better than others.”

There have definitely been a lot of better days for Daescu this year, as going into The Boca Raton APP New York City Open, he has a grand total of eight gold medals on the year, more than any other APP men’s pro this season. He is now the head touring pro at BallenIsles Country Club, and while he is no longer teaching because of his tour schedule, he is still very involved with the community there - a community that has supported him and a community he believes he grew together with as far as growing the game of pickleball. What started out as four pickleball players playing on a tennis hard court with plastic-taped pickleball lines has turned into nine permanent pickleball courts as part of the $1.3 million facility. 

Settling into a hectic touring schedule and life down in the Sunshine State, Andrei has come a long way since his energetic childhood days in Romania, where he would get in trouble on a weekly basis for talking in class, playing soccer in the wrong places, or kicking a ball into a window.

“In school I always had a tough time sitting down, listening to all those lectures,” laughs Daescu, who has since found ways to more effectively channel his energy. “Stuff that had to do with sitting down and paying attention for too long would definitely get me - I mean, it still gets me now, but when I was little for sure it would get me.”

Some things never change.

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